A Conversation about Homework

We had a great conversation in our class today.  I wasn’t surprised that it was great, because like I’ve told you before a hundred times, I have really amazing kids.  Here’s what happened:

In our classroom, Wednesday is homework day.  Today, however, instead of sending home the homework sheet, we had a conversation about a decision that our 5th grade team has made to not do that weekly homework sheet anymore.

What follows are some of the things my kids said in response to that announcement:

  • I think that’s great, but I’m not sure my parents will believe me when I tell them.
  • But what about next year?  I don’t think I’ll be ready for homework in middle school.
  • I think it’s a good idea because I’ll have time to play outside now.
  • Well, even if you don’t tell me to, I’ll still read and write at home anyway.
  • I think that even if you don’t send home homework to do, my parents will still give me things to work on anyway.
  • I don’t like that idea.  I’m just not sure about it.

I have to admit, I was a little surprised by some of them.  Maybe naively, I figured they would all think it was a great idea.  But I love that they were honest about what they were thinking, and that they were asking questions.  I have very thoughtful friends, and so several of them asked me about how long we’ve been thinking about it and how we had decided to do this.

I was happy to share with them what this announcement meant for them, and what it did not:

  • It does mean that they will not receive a weekly homework sheet of have-tos that they are to turn in on Tuesday.
  • It does not mean that they will never have homework, though.  Just not weekly, busy-work kind of homework.
  • It does mean that I expect them to use every minute we are in the classroom together wisely.  We cram a lot of learning into a day and I expect that they remember this and work hard.
  • It does mean that some days there will be things we will have time to start–but not finish–in class.  These things may have to go home for homework to be completed because we will need it for the next day.
  • It does mean that I want them to have more time to spend being a kid.  Doing things they want to do like play outside, ride their bike or spend time with their families.
  • It does not mean that I want them to stop reading and writing at home.  I am just not telling them they have to.  I want them to want to, and continue doing so.  (Many admitted that they would do this anyway, even if it wasn’t homework)
  • It does mean we will still have spelling tests each week.  We will find times to work on this practice during the school day.
  • It does not mean that I think my kiddos should go home and sit in front of the TV or video games all night long.  I hope that now they use their time to choose to do active things with their families or friends.
  • It does mean that I want them to continue to work had and love to learn.

I can’t wait to hear about how the conversation went when they went home tonight!  🙂

15 thoughts on “A Conversation about Homework

  1. They were right. I truly didn’t believe Evan as he was telling me and giggling in the car because he knew i would not believe him. And he’s going to be super excited that I commented on your blog.

    • Shannon–I wonder if you meant “increase” instead of “decrease.” My kids work so hard for me for so many hours at school every day, but with daily homework, they are then asked to put in a “second shift” when they get home. We’re working to help change some ideas about time spent at home after school, hopefully allowing for more time for our students to devote to things they are interested in. What does your school do with homework? How have your parents reacted to your homework policies?

      • We have a county policy about homework being no longer than a certain amount of time for each grade level-I think a lot of our teachers don’t adhere to it and assign a lot more than that.

        No, I meant that I had tapered off on our homework this year-for the same reasons that you had mentioned-so they can have a life outside of school. But, even with the “little” amount of homework that I give I have SO many (a majority really) that don’t do that. It’s been sort of a tough year this year with so many 6th graders that don’t care and don’t put forth hardly any effort-this class is way different than last year.

        So it’s like even when I lightened up on the homework, they wouldn’t even do that little bit. Very frustrating this year. I have 50 students in 2 classes. Back in September 38 of the 50 read below grade level. Parents don’t respond to the weekly graded papers that they sign-they wait until the report card comes out and want to talk to me about their child’s F.

        I’m trying to make it fun for them and hope that it helps somewhat. I feel sorry for a lot of them in a way because they only do what they see their parents do-nothing. 🙂

        • Shannon,

          Sounds like a very frustrating situation for you! Hang in there and keep working at it. I think that so often I can get frustrated by things that aren’t changing and it eventually makes me want to stop trying. But then I remember that I can’t stop. Nothing is impossible, but maybe I might have to change the way I look at it or adjust my expectations a little bit. Keep working hard to help your kids grow! And thanks again for following along on our journey and sharing your thoughts!

  2. I like the ambivalence of the kids — ambivalence is a quality that is often quite good, because it creates the space to think about the subject and consider different angles. We live in a world that celebrates instant opinions. But are they considered opinions ?

    Also, I’m not allowed to post notes on the blog, per Archie Kipp. He’s afraid I’ll write something stupid or goofy, a concern not without merit.

  3. Jen~ I appreciate your “what this does mean and does not mean.” It really helped clarify the big picture for me. Really, what you are saying is that you are asking kids to work smarter, not harder and that the work they do will be meaningful to them and to their learning. Perhaps a follow question for conversation with the kids, in a few days/weeks might be: what is different since we changed it up regarding homework? Thanks for helping us all to think differently.

    • I’m glad you liked it! Like I mentioned to Marin’s mom, it seemed that many kiddos go went home and just passed on the “YAY! No homework!” part, and some families didn’t get the whole picture of what we were talking about. We’ve talked about this already, but I love your question about how things are different. They always see/notice things that I don’t even think of. What would it look like at your house if this happened with your daughter? Just curious. 🙂

  4. I’m in agreement with Mrs. Sisul. When Marin explained the “no homework” conversation to us, she left out a lot of “does/does not mean” information, making it seem like it was strictly a “no homework at all” situation for the rest of the school year. In addition to Mrs. Sisul’s suggestion, maybe a quick visual review of these important points?

    I do think this change will help them think differently about many things in their future … not to accept ideas just because that’s what “has always been done.”

    Thank you, Mrs. Bearden, for opening our eyes to this discussion. To be able to have more family time and less stress is huge these days!

    • Jan–I appreciate your comments here. Believe me, this was a big, scary step to make, but we did it for so many good reasons! I have had follow up conversations already with the kiddos, as it seemed that many of them didn’t get the whole picture of what we talked about to their parents. I know it will continue to be something we discuss together. Change is hard, but can be such a good thing if it’s for the right reasons. And when you said “visual reminder”, what did you mean? Something for home or for school? I would be willing to do whatever I can to help support this for your family. 🙂

      • I think just a copy of your “Does/does not mean” list would be good to post in the classroom, as well as maybe a hard copy for backpack mail.

        I apologize if you have already answered this question, but is there a summary of research that helped the fifth grade team come to this decision? I’m actually all for the idea, except that I’m a bit worried about the homework transition from fifth to sixth grade. Has there been research demonstrating that kids tend to do okay with the homework transition after a month or two in middle school?

  5. On second thought, please don’t go to the trouble of summarizing the research – life’s too short! Plus, there’s a lot less stress at our house concerning homework!

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